Local News

Wednesday, May 14 2014 09:20 AM

Council approves Housing Element

City still needs more housing for low income

The Tehachapi City Council approved what was labeled a long and arduous housing element on Monday, May 5 in a 5-0 vote, completing the city's General Plan update.

The housing plan, a mandatory element required in any city's general plan by the state of California, is a compilation of data for demographics and population.

David James, Tehachapi's community development director, said that the housing element was the only key element left uncompleted because of 2010 census data just then coming available.

"Housing elements are extremely reliant of census data," James said. "Some communities were forging ahead with the 2000 census but there was always this lingering doubt that those housing elements would be accepted because the demographics would be significantly out of date."

James said that Tehachapi decided to err on the side of caution by waiting until the most relevant data became available.

A housing element is the only item in the general plan that needs to be approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Everything else can be done internally.

Tehachapi received its approval in September 2013 before forging ahead with an environmental impact report, as required by the California Environmental Protection Act.

Lisa Wise, chief consultant for the housing element, highlighted some of the document's key points.

One of the key components is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), including unaccommodated housing needs.

The RHNA data for the 2006-2013 period notes that 410 of the 454 housing units needed were started for the Tehachapi area, the bulk of it in moderate and above-moderate area.

Only 105 housing units remain needed, all in the very low and low income bracket.

"This means the city is doing fairly well," Wise told the council. "Most of those are in what is called the moderate and above-moderate income levels."

Wise said the state looks at all levels of affordability, dividing housing needs into very low, low, moderate and above moderate income ranges.

Tehachapi has plenty of vacant land to facilitate the need for development of housing the various levels, she added.

Vacant land inventory is another component the report, in which the city has in some abundance.

"We do a lot of of work on inventory of what is out there," Wise said. The vacant land inventory includes looking at the city's zoning to determine the types of housing that can be built, from single family residences to apartments and condominiums.

"You really have the right kind of sites to meet your housing allocation," Wise said. A map included in Chapter 5 of the housing element shows a smidgen of vacant land for high density residential south of East Tehachapi Boulevard and not much more medium density residential homes.

By comparison, a large swath of vacant land north of Highway 58 is zoned for estate level development, while most of the vacant land south of Highway 58 is tied to low density residential.

Wise said the city has the potential for more than 2,000 housing units of various types, calculated at 75 percent of the actual vacant land inventory available.

While the city itself is not responsible for building actual housing, it does have control over the policies and programs that can help or hinder the development and affordability of housing.

With its approval, the housing element heads back to the state housing department for a 90-day review period before granting a final approval.

Prior to approval, Mayor Phil Smith commended the staff and the consultant on the work.

"This has been a long time in the making," Smith said. "This is a very big deal for the city of Tehachapi."

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